Interior Motives – challenge of tying a room together
Byline: Pamela Damour
When I first started my business more than 21 years ago, finding the right fabric was just as difficult as it is today. To make a color scheme work, I often opted for details such as banding or trims to blend one fabric with another. Choices were limited so, as designers, we did what we had to do. With all the advances in technology, the decorating industry has changed with everything else. We now have fabric libraries on the Web, and entire fabric and wallpaper collections on CDs.
You would think with all these choices at our fingertips, we could find what we wanted, right? Wrong! I am often plagued with the dilemma of how to tie a room all together, creating the most impact for my client for the least amount of money. So what is my solution, you ask? Embroidery, of course! A simple design can tie an entire room together, but finding someone to execute your designs can be difficult.
Creating A Happy Relationship
If you want to work for the interior designer market, it’s important to keep or provide stitch-outs of requested designs. These stitch-outs should be on either the actual project fabric or something similar to provide accurate results. A thread chart – not a color chart – should be available for the designer’s selection. It is also helpful to provide him with cleaning instructions to pass along to the client.
Designer/decorators will often ask you to copy a pattern from fabric or wallpaper. This can be difficult as these patterns are copyrighted and written permission may be required before scanning them for digitizing. Some major companies will allow their patterns to be used and some will not, so it’s best to ask.
But remember, there are so many digitized designs out there that just by changing thread colors, you can often simulate the look of a matching pattern. Keep a library of special designs decorators will want. These are usually large designs, with simple lines and not a lot of detail. Remember, most of these designs will be seen from a distance. Large one-color designs are often all a designer needs to tie together a room, so keep lots of samples on hand. If you provide or purchase a design for a particular project, do an extra stitch-out on decorator fabric to include in your sample library.
Fabrics used in custom interiors are often not washable, so the use of top stabilizers, such as the water-soluble types, should not be used.
When developing a relationship with an embroiderer, there are some important steps you can take to avoid costly mistakes. If the piece isn’t stitched correctly the first time, often there’s not another piece of imported silk or antique linen to embroider it again. Communication is the key, and having your paperwork in order will help. We use a work order for all projects going in or out of our studio (see Figure 1). Make sure to provide your designer and decorator clients with several copies of this work order, explaining how to complete it. This will save you and the decorator time, money and mistakes.
When asked what she expects from embroiderers, interior decorator Maureen Harrigan says: “I expect my embroidery company to provide me with an actual stitch-out of designs. I like to use these stitch-outs in an organized sample book to show my clients, in selling custom embroidery,” she says. “I like to see point-of-purchase items, such as embroidered lamp shades, monogrammed napkins, embroidered towels in great colors as well as unusual items, such as mantel scarves and rugs. I also look for specialty effects in embroidery, such as crewel, red work, cross-stitch and needlepoint. These all feed my imagination and help me to be creative in my designing.”
Another feature embroiderers may want to offer is custom edging, such as scallops or embroidered lace. When a consumer works with a designer, they expect the unusual, the extraordinary and the exceptional. Give the designer a firm quote. He’ll need that when giving prices to the client. If you’re unsure of the price, it’s always better to lean toward the high side. I find that having an extensive font library as well as a good collection of monograms is helpful. We often give an embroidered project to the client as a thank you, so being able to customize it with his name or monogram is always special.
Tying It All Together
Color is probably the single most important element in design. Since the home decorating industry follows the clothing industry in color trends, it’s important to keep thread colors on hand that will work with the colors a decorator is using. Although there are always changing trends in decorating, each designer will have his own favorite colors he likes to work with. I use true-color lighting in my design studio, so the colors I choose will work together when I deliver them to the client.
When trying to pull things together, designers are often challenged in finding the perfect fabric to pull the entire room together. Here, embroidery adds another dimension without adding more patterns. An important rule in decorating: When mixing patterns, the color must match, while the scale should be mixed. So a large floral could be mixed with a small plaid or stripe, along with a solid or texture as shown in the blue bedroom on page 11.
When looking for high-end business from decorators, have samples to show them. Don’t be afraid to discuss pricing with them. They need to know the costs involved and how they can incorporate your designs into their projects. Show them digitized designs from their fabrics and wall coverings. All too often decorators get caught up in the same ideas and designs that have worked for them, creating a decorating rut. In my business, I always look at my competition’s weaknesses and try to make them my strengths. My competition lacks innovation and creativity, so I find a lot of inspiration through embroidery, even if it’s just a small pillow to create a “zinger” or wow effect. Try embroidery on table runners, mantle scarves, window treatments, pillows, lamp shades, bedding, towels and rugs. Court the designer business. It’s steady work and you might just be surprised how fun it is to work with us!
To find out what design firms are located in your area, contact the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) or simply look in the Yellow Pages under “Interior Design.”
Known as the “Decorating Diva,” Pamela Damour offers professional drapery workroom training to consumers and to the trade. A regular on HGTV and Discovery Channel, Damour is a certified educator for Viking Sewing Machines.
American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) 608 Massachusetts Ave., N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 546-3480 (202) 546-3240 www.asid.org
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